Tuesday, May 01, 2012
Deer Mortality Survey
By 9 AM yesterday I was well on my way in a floatplane to outer Uyak Bay to help ADF&G (The Alaska Department of Fish and Game) with a deer mortality survey. Every year Fish and Game walk the same transects along the same coastline and counts how many deer died there the previous winter. This gives them an idea of how harsh the previous winter was on the local deer population. Find more dead deer than usual and it was a relatively bad winter. Find very few and it says the deer had good survival rates.
I've volunteered for ADF&G on these surveys in the past, and it is also a good chance to check on Archaeological sites in a remote part of the Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge. So by 9 AM I found myself winging along over the snow of Kodiak's interior on my way to Uyak Bay.
As we circled to land I looked out the window and recognized an archaeological site. Those weird 'pimples' near the middle of the photo represent the remains of 500 year old multiroom houses. Later we got to look over the housepits from the ground, and it was amazing to think that there was once a large village at the locality.
In the picture below is a REALLY BIG housepit at another prehistoric village site. This is the site where I collected the nettles for last night's dinner. This house depression is so deep and large that I believe it may represent the remains of a Qasiq or 'Men's house'. This is where the community would have had community celebrations and men and boys would have hung out repairing tools.
I joined ADF&G employees Donn, John, Tyler, and Teresa. John and Teresa did a transect south while Donn, Tyler and I went north. Our goal was to find all the dead deer within 100 yards of the beach. In the photo below is a 'puff deer' that we found on the beach. Most of the deer we found were on south facing slopes in thick brush where they holed up to get out of the wind.
Once we found a deer we GPS'd its position and to the best of our ability recorded the sex and age of the dead animal. We also broke open a long bone and checked out the condition of the marrow inside. The color of the marrow indicates how the deer was doing when he died - you can get an idea if they froze to death (marrow healthy) or starved (marrow depleted).
While on survey we also found lots of cool beach debris. It appears a container of sports memorabilia fell off of a ship. We found hundreds of toy nerf balls and flyswatters with the logos of various sports teams. I desperately wanted to find a University of Wisconsin badger flyswatter, but the best that could do was the Ohio State Buckeyes. I also carried a Texas Longhorn swatter for a bit.
Anyway, the above photo shows our loot at the end of the day. We only collected the good balls and I filled my pack with presents for Nora and Stuey. It's not often that I get to bring a 'store bought' type present home from the wilds of Kodiak.
Here Tyler and Donn walk home along the beach with a set of bear tracks going the other way in the sand on their right. The bears are just starting to wake up from hibernation.
All and all it was a great day. I was very happy to have Zoya home to take care of the kiddos while I went and played! And oh yeah, we found more dead deer than usual - but John C still has to punch the numbers and compare them with years past.